Israeli 'Greater Jerusalem' bill paused after USA pressure

Likud MK David Bitan is seen at a Likud rally near Ben Gurion International Airport

The bill had been expected to be voted on by a ministerial committee on Sunday, in a move that would fast-track its progress through parliament. U.S. President Donald Trump has urged restraint as his administration tries to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

He said it will take time to clarify the bill to the U.S. "I think it's fair to say that the United States is discouraging actions that it believes will unduly distract the principals from focusing on the advancement of peace negotiations", a USA official said on condition of anonymity.

The Greater Jerusalem legislation would bring some Jewish settlements built in the Palestinian West Bank under the jurisdiction of Jerusalem's municipal authority.

But Likud member David Bitan, chairperson of Netanyahu's coalition in parliament, said a vote by the cabinet committee would be delayed because Washington told Israel the bill's passage could impede U.S. efforts to revive peace talks that collapsed in 2014.


Peace Now, an Israeli anti-settlement watchdog group, says the bill would amount to "de facto annexation" and be a clear step toward full annexation of the West Bank.

For the vast majority of the global community, the status of Israel 's settlements, built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state, is to be decided in peace negotiations.

Israeli media reports said the United States ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, had conveyed misgivings about the legislation, under which the large Maale Adumim and Beitar Illit settlements would become part of a Greater Jerusalem municipality. Intelligence minister Israel Katz, a supporter of the bill, has said this would "ensure a Jewish majority in a united Jerusalem". It sees the entire city as its indivisible capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

"Tomorrow we are going to mark the centennial for the conquering of a very special place in Israel by the Australian soldiers that fought, gave their lives in this war 100 years ago", he told reporters at the airport.

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